ESPN has successfully renewed its media rights deal to the English FA Cup in the USA for four more seasons.

The new deal, which runs through until the end of the 2027/28 season, ensures that the world’s oldest national soccer competition will continue to be streamed across ESPN+.

Seven hundred and twenty-nine clubs competed in the 2023/24 FA Cup across England and Wales. The FA Cup features 12 rounds, with the top divisions participating later in the competition. This weekend’s final of the FA Cup features Manchester City facing Manchester United. It’ll be the 143rd final of the competition. The first one began in the 1871/72 season.

In addition to the FA Cup, ESPN+ has the US rights to the DFB-Pokal, Copa del Rey, LaLiga, Bundesliga, Eredivisie, NWSL, USL, and many other soccer leagues and competitions.

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Improvements made to FA Cup coverage

Soccer fans watching the English FA Cup on ESPN+ may have noticed several improvements during the last two years. Those include the addition of an FA Cup whip-around show. Plus there have been more games shown from the earlier rounds than previously.

For example, all 32 FA Cup 3rd Round games in 2024 were streamed live on ESPN+. If you live in the United Kingdom, only nine games were shown on domestic television. For the 2024/25 season onwards, ESPN+ will stream 79 games per season.

In the United States of America, ESPN has held the exclusive rights to the FA Cup since 2018. For many of those years, including this weekend’s FA Cup final, the coverage has often included commentaries by Jon Champion, who currently also works for NBC Sports as their Premier League announcer.

Big changes in store for the FA Cup in the USA beginning 2024/25

Earlier this year, the FA and Premier League agreed on changes to the FA Cup from the 2024/25 season. The changes include:

• All rounds played on weekends
• No Premier League games scheduled on the weekends of 4th, 5th, quarterfinals and final
• No replays from the 1st Round proper, and
• The Premier League will increase funding to the English football pyramid. In total, the Premier League now gives $169 million per season to help grow grassroots soccer and other causes.

Out of all the changes, the one that caused the most furor was the decision to eliminate replays from the 1st Round proper. The lack of replays will financially hurt lower-league clubs. As a result of the decision, the EFL plans to seek compensation since the replays are often a lifeline for clubs lower down the divisions.

Looking ahead to 2028/29 and onwards

For the new deal, ESPN renewed the FA Cup rights through IMG, which is the agency that the FA appointed to sell the rights across North America and the Caribbean.

However, for the international rights to the 2028/29 season onwards, there have been reports that the Premier League is interested in purchasing those. While not finalized, the thinking is that the Premier League can combine its rights with the FA Cup to sell them together as one package, thus increasing the value of the rights to broadcasters.

Photos: IMAGO / Paul Marriott